Dafnis Prieto, a Cuban jazz drummer and composer who left Havana for New York in 1999, has been awarded a MacArthur fellowship. Prieto’s acrobatic, polyrhythmic mastery of the drum kit and unique approach to the fusion of Afro-Cuban and jazz styles have made him a player to be watched since his arrival in the United States.
“I try not to not recognize any style because that puts a limit to people’s desire to listen to more,” Prieto said in a video on the Macarthur Foundation website. “And that desire is what I try to keep alive.”
Prieto was voted the Up and Coming Jazz Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2006, and been nominated for past Grammy and Latin Grammy awards. He has performed with Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Roy Hargrove, Henry Threadgill, Chucho Valdes and other leading jazz artists, as well as his own group, the Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet. He is a member of the NYU music faculty.
Prieto is one of 22 new MacArthur Fellows announced yesterday (September 19) by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, each of whom will receive $500,000 over the next five years.
29-year-old cellist Alisa Wielerstein and choral conductor Francisco Nuñez of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City are other music professionals who have been awarded the so-called genius grants.